• Micro Fiction Contest: A Sad Tale’s Best For Winter

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Micro Fiction Challenge     Comments 122 comments
    Jan
    4

    Discussion questions: In fifty (50) words or fewer, write a scene or story that includes the phrase “a sad tale’s best for winter.” Write or paste your story into the comments. The winner will get his/her choice of books from the WriteByNight library.

     

    Elsewhere on this blog we’ve been chatting about our 2020 writing and reading goals. Some of you are writing out your goals in the comments for some extra accountability, others of you, the shy ones, are contacting me privately; either way, one recurring theme is that you want to write more. Hey, me too! I shit you not!

    We haven’t done a micro fiction contest since the 2010s (eye roll), and what better way to get 2020 started off write (eye roll) than a quickslow and painlesspainful, lowhigh-pressure writing exercise?

    I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but where I’ve been, winter is holding off. Here in NYC we’re in the forties, with little snow, and on Christmas Day in Milwaukee, where I was at the time and wished I weren’t, it hit fifty-three. Santa slid down my chimney wearing a tank top and nothing else. For real. He hung a wreath without using his hands. It was awkward, but kind of cool.

    This all makes me suspect that winter, when it does arrive, will be fierce and knock us on our asses.

    A few weeks ago we talked about your winter writing approach, so let’s put it to the test and do some winter-based storytelling, with a little help from our old pal Shakespeare.

     

    What Is This Contest and How Do I Enter?

    In fifty (50) words or fewer, write a story or scene that includes the phrase “a sad tale’s best for winter,” which comes from The Winter’s Tale.

    Enter as many times as you wish.

    Write or paste your story/stories in the comments section below.

    Get your entries in by the end of Sunday, January 12. I’ll announce the winner in the comments.

    Our favorite story will earn its writer his/her choice of book from the WBN library, which has lots of fun new titles just begging for good homes.

     

    You’ll Choose a Winner Based on What, Exactly?

    The usual metrics: humor, style, concision (obviously). Whimsy (mine).

    And I’ll take into account the number of thumbs-up each story receives. So if you really dig someone else’s piece, be a sport and give it an upvote.

    Good luck and happy writing!

     

    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2020 writing project you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. If you have a manuscript that’s ready for some editorial care, check out our various critiquing, editorial, and proofing services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    KevinW

    Keefraze: “They called him/her/them ‘Smokestack'”

    Joe Giordano

    Consider mussels clinging to their Irish farmer’s string, nourished by the gentle Connemura, happy as clams, so to speak. A Belgian calls, “Moules frittes,” and our black-shell loungers are shock-plucked from the sea, stewed and chewed without the polite ceremony of an Irish wake. A sad tale’s best for winter.

    E

    (Connemara) Shock-plucked…stewed and chewed without the polite ceremony of an Irish wake. This is beautiful.

    Joe Giordano

    Thank you. Please excuse a commercial message, but my publishers have put all three of my novel eBooks on promotion for $0.99. You can find the Amazon links and first chapters on my website. http://joe-giordano.com/

    Michelle L Rodriguez

    I must look you up..very good.

    KevinW

    The robot head smashed to the ice, filling its cream-colored fedora with broken circuitry and dented metal. Carlyle blew smoke from the Remington’s barrel. The Tettrazonicavarellio Family were fools. Their vaunted “Wiseguy 2050” hitbot was no match for a legendary professional. He chortled. A sad tale’s best for winter…

    Silke

    The Labrador dragged the child into the family room and found his favorite toy.
    Zach held the ball over his head.
    The dog wagged his tail, eyes fixed.
    “Winter!” the mother said, hearing a crash.
    “A sad tail’s best for Winter,” said Zach, tossing the ball over the broken lamp.

    Elissa Malcohn

    A sad tale’s best for winter, but this one’s brutal. “Was everything all right now?” I finish Kempowski’s All for Nothing and lie awake in bed, unable to stop seeing. My protest sign leans on the door; everything is not all right. Wind whips sickly warmth out to sea.
    ——————-
    (This is micro nonfiction, so I’ve bent the rules a bit.)

    Elissa Malcohn

    Excellent piece about the book here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/16/walter-kempowskis-epic-novel-of-germany-in-collapse — it includes spoilers, but the writing is so powerful (often in a deceptively simple way) that the spoilers don’t matter. Non-spoiler review here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/nov/28/all-for-nothing-walter-kempowski-review-novel

    Silke

    “ ‘A sad tale’s best for winter’,” quipped the bartender.
    The cop paused. “Right . . . So I picked up the kid’s legos. I was sorry, ya know, that I knocked them over when I cuffed his mom.”
    “We’re still out looking for him. Cute redhead,” said the partner, donning his gloves.

    Jamie Arnett

    The sheets were cold, formless. An impression of his head on the pillow remained. Outside, the last autumnal hues had fallen in the night. She knew. Months ago, she had thrown a picture of them, and it shattered at his feet. He had said, “a sad tale’s best for winter.”

    Donnelley

    A lot of story in 50 words. WOW.

    david lemke

    Winter’s Writing Retreat
    The note I’d left on the table, “A sad tale’s best for winter,” I couldn’t bear to sign.
    I crumpled one too many rejections. My “Happy fucking new year!” echoed.
    Silent, shivering, naked, I made my final way across the frozen lake. Bearing happy tiding, the Mailman arrives too late.

    david lemke

    If you notice my story, as always is 50 words long. Having a title that sets the scene might be a way of cheating.
    I’ve learned to like flash because it’s so short you can focus on every word; take one out here, ad a better one there until you get it right.

    Amanda

    “A Sad Tale’s Best For Winter”

    Mrs. Claus burnt his cookies. Elves were striking. Reindeer were sick. Bad children outnumbered the good.

    At a knock at his workshop door, Santa wrenched it open. The Christmas Angel dragged a tree behind her. “Where do you want me to stick this, Santa?”

    Amanda

    He slouched at the bar; she side-eyed him with a questioning glance.

    “A sad tale’s best for winter,” she said.

    Looking up, he replied, “Here’s your winter tale. My mother died, my father left before the funeral, my best friend boinked my girlfriend, and I got fired.”

    “That sucks.”

    “Yeah.”

    Diane McCaa

    He watched the older woman laboriously lean over and place a long lingering kiss on the older man’s lips.
    “Will you still love me like that?” He asked as the woman walked away from the casket.
    “A sad tale’s best for the winter,” his wife replied as she kissed him.

    Diane McCaa

    Thank you. I just saw there is a typo in the story: the first word is supposed to be “THEY” not “He”

    Mallorie Smith

    A sad tale’s best for winter, but the spring will always come. This was my mother’s favorite saying. I didn’t understand then. Now I want to laugh. Before, I was hungry. There was screaming and burning and pain. Now I soar above my home, above the ruins of Hiroshima.

    david lemke

    I have a friend I play ping pong with who witnessed Hiroshima. Days later, streams of the sick and the dying appeared in her village.

    Elissa Malcohn

    Contessa’s yowls insist a sad tale’s best for winter. The Christmas tree angel couldn’t care less, hanging by a tattered wing as the Douglas fir pitches like the Titanic. “Silent Night” on the stereo and one tinsel-tangled screaming kitten. Ornament shrapnel flies; the great hairball drops. Happy New Year.

    Elissa Malcohn

    No Christmas tree here (not even a Chanukah bush), but my partner and I both grew up with cats. Your sister’s Lab and cat make a good team, though I suspect she may have felt differently.

    snowglobe

    She made soup on snowy days.
    The first onion slice burned her eyes, “A sad tale’s best for winter. I’ve overlooked his drinking and spending sprees, but discovering his phone chats with women half my age is too much.” She left the onion, but took the knife to surprise him.

    david lemke

    Good food and bloodshed; who could resist?

    snowglobe

    Love this, David. Thanks

    Jan

    Jan Morgan-Swegle Entry 1 How quiet the house when our children are gone. Their laughter doesn’t bounce off the walls. Their “Bozo” feet don’t clump up and down the stairs. The story of the springtime of our lives was happy and bright. But an empty house is a sad tale’s best for winter. (49 words) Entry 2 The “Me Too” movement is a sad tale’s best for winter. The actions of cold disregard for women chills my soul. I rage against the mindset that power grants perverted pleasure at little no cost to the abuser. There is a storm within… Read more »

    Amanda

    Her fingers clutched her already-mussed hair as she gritted her teeth. “A sad tale’s best for winter,” she snarled, “what kind of phrase is that?! Grrrrrrrr!”

    Her boyfriend gave suggestions. “Something about Santa? Or, hey, how about a lonely guy in a bar?” She glared, typed, clutched, typed, growled. “Grrrrrrr!”

    Amanda

    A bit of editing to make it a bit more sad….

    Her fingers clutched her already-mussed hair as she gritted her teeth. “A sad tale’s best for winter,” she snarled, “what kind of phrase is that?! Grrrrrrrr!”

    Her boyfriend gave suggestions. “Something about Santa? Or, hey, how about a lonely guy in a bar?” She glared, typed, growled, “You’re no help.”

    Robin Rushing

    A sad tale’s best for winter, I remind myself. The white envelopes stuck between the artificial limbs of the ornament-less tree. My father rubbing his chest, explaining that they hadn’t been up to shopping that year, not mentioning the pains. Always a Marine, he tried in vain to walk them off.

    Calder Lowe

    Carl coughed. Snot dripped. His grandma commiserated. “They say a sad tale’s best for winter. Lotsa snow everywhere. That there nasty cold. Must be the case.”
    Displaying a shiny CONGRATULATIONS badge on his chest, Carl grinned. “My science teacher praised me for nursing an injured bird that finally took flight.”

    Elissa Malcohn

    Puffy pink unicorn cover and cheap lined paper. The pixie diary barely covers my palm. A sad tale’s best for winter, but we need summer, too. Whatever she’s written, it’s magic. Her snow-draped tombstone feels warm against my back as I turn her golden key in its little lock.

    frances hill

    “A sad tale’s best for winter,” he stated as he outlined the criteria for the next Hallmark Christmas Season, “Let’s see, we have unrequited love, false accusations, truth revealed almost too late,the final kiss. That sums it up.”

    Jamie Arnett

    This time of year, there is nothing to hide behind, no thick curtain of leaves to conceal his crime. On the back porch with morning coffee, I saw the horror unfold just beyond the property line. “A sad tale’s best for winter,” Officer Whitt said as he handcuffed my neighbor.

    Jamie Arnett

    A sad tale’s best for winter. At dinner, lips pucker from bitter fruit. Goosebumps disease their skin when Momma draws all three from the bath. The sheets are cold when she tucks them in, and their little bodies shiver when she tells them Daddy’s not coming home.

    Brigitte

    It’s a miserbly cold day and the same coldness rejoices inside his body. Although, the stories claim he loves her, sometimes a man has no choice. To this day, no one knows where she is. But God said have hope. One day, she’ll return; a sad tale’s best for winter.

    Brigitte

    “A sad tale’s best for winter”, he relives the moment again. “Bamn!” Then the brakes fail and the car skids off the dirt road and disappears into the night; an evil chill rips through the grey clouds. But he grabs a cold beer, and finds peace; God has a plan.

    Brigitte

    “A sad tale’s best for winter” then a snowflake lands on her cheek. It’s cold but feels good.” Nothing wrong with cold, she thinks to herself.” Then she lies down,moves her arms and legs; creating a snow angel. I want to be an angel. But the evil controls her.

    Silke

    “My brother found a winning lottery ticket in a rental car,” said Sandi, slurping her hot chocolate.
    Jen sat before the crackling fire. “A sad tale’s best for winter.”
    The group of friends at the ski lodge agreed.
    “Okay . . . When he returned the car, it blew away.”

    Silke

    The men beat their arms about themselves. David blew on the smoldering leaves, willing them to ignite.
    “A sad t-t-tale’s best for winter,” said Jim, to pass the time.
    Ben’s icicled moustache quivered. “Okay . . .” he began. “When they found the f-f-frozen bodies of the three men—”

    Amanda

    Haha!

    Elli Hunt

    We gathered around Papa, as he settled into his chair. He scanned our eager faces and smiled, then he began, “A sad tale’s best for winter.” We didn’t expect that his usual stories were funny, sometimes scary, but always exciting. He explained, “It makes us grateful for…”

    Bob McCarthy

    “A sad tale’s best for winter,” he said, kicking off his flip flops and resting his feet on the window sill in the lanai.
    “ Shakespeare!” shouted his son Geoffrey, named after another Brit lit icon. “So what’s to talk about?”
    ‘How about the twelve inches of snow up north?”

    Calder Lowe

    Polyamory

    Gwen desperately sought a job during Christmas season.

    Slogging through slush to the toy store where she’d landed one, she
    cursed, “A sad tale’s best for winter.”

    Tasked with displaying the stuffed animals, her boss interrupted her by
    sputtering, “What’s this”? while motioning to the menagerie humping
    each other.

    “Polyamory”?

    Roberta young

    I Enjoyed the imagery ! Want more!

    Robert A Norris

    Five squirrels unable to move, with their tails stuck under the weight of the freezing rain that has sealed their fate, except the one who’s tail was lost in the fight. A sad tale indeed but seems a sad tail’s best for winter in this case, so the hawk feels.

    Torria Stevens

    The visible spectrum bath from snowstorm and daylight magnify Mona’s emoting face. With two shakes he is alongside her, overcome himself with a brand new story for the season. So he begins with: Mona was in Hades…and they share the wisdom that a sad tale was best for winter.

    Torria Stevens

    And thank you David; this was so much fun – so priviledged to be among such creative writers on this platform. A happy, happy writing new year! to you too.

    Brigitte

    “A sad tale’s best for winter” and upon reading that line, he closes the book and turns on the news. ” A tornado may hit the small town of Lester. So, be prepared.” And remember the bible says, “Fear is Natural”. God loves you.” Bow your heads and let’s pray together.

    Brigitte

    “A sad tale’s best for winter”.
    ” Who wants happiness? Besides, happiness is fleeting. And for that matter, feelings are NOT facts! And feelings change often. In addition, feelings make us human. I finally understand how decades of therapy helped change my perspective on life and allowed me to be honest.

    Janne Swearengen

    A sad tale’s best for winter but the day Mama stole a truck from the ‘asylum’ and went searchin’ buck nekkid for her children was in the thick of a Tennessee summer; it was the most grievous time of my very young and her very turbulent life.

    Jamie Arnett

    A sad tale’s best for winter, but begins on the first day of fall when he drew a sweater from the chest. Inhaling cedar and her gardenia perfume, he grew weak. Last year she unpacked the sweaters and placed them in the dresser, but she was dead by winter.

    KevinW

    Anna barked at the waiter, her eyes inscrutable behind dark glasses. He retreated in confusion. What could be wrong? The maitre d’ then raced over with a silver platter displaying a dancing, laughing escargot wearing a tuxedo. Anna visibly brightened. The waiter remembered his Shakespeare. “A glad snail’s best for Wintour”.

    KevinW

    Murderella was feeling the season. Valentine’s Day. Blah. As much as she loved Dwayne-o, she wondered what it would be like to be married to a man with hair and teeth. She fantasized about Lemmy and Keith Richards. Now THERE were some sexy septagenarians!. A sad tale’s best for winter…

    KevinW

    Ok. David…and here’s the second…

    In the dark, he snuffed the butt and hit the Jack, slamming the fifth down on the Marshall. Pappy screamed the band’s name and the Supertroopers ignited. Lemmy grimaced and began “Capricorn”. The sardonic. existential lyrics perfectly suited his mood. Merry Christmas. Bah, humbug. A sad tale’s best for winter…

    Torria Stevens

    Kamala: …happiness year ’round…be also sad tales?

    Sage: Perennial, no! A sad tale was best for winter. As winter settles, the jays appear, their invitation is to purge and clear. As when all begin to melt and voila! the spruce emerge, the wren sway the mind to surge.

    Barbara L Carter

    I gulped another beer; stumbled against the table. Christmas brought bitter, depressing, comatose weather. From six to fifteen my uncle took me to the basement to give me my Christmas present. Tears wormed into my mouth. I sighed hard. This holiday would be different. A sad tale’s best for winter.

    ANN ATANASIO

    Myra eyed Demetrius, shivered. A sad tale’s best for winter. He’d despised her cat; kicked gentle Ophelia savagely. Myra nursed her as she’d attended the ancient Demetrius, feeding him, dressing his sores. With Ophelia dying, Myra swabbed her infection. Now spring loomed and Demetrius lay dead. Cat scratch fever. Meow.

    ANN ATANASIO

    Deirdre disappeared down Ali’s snowy country road: lifelong friends now doctor/patient. Tonight Deidre’d asked a favor; Ali couldn’t cure Deidre nor legally end her suffering.

    The punctured tire’d flatten; Deidre too weak to walk.

    “A sad tale’s best for winter,” Ali thought gripping Deidre’s phone; praying she’d succumb to exhaust fumes before freezing.

    ANN ATANASIO

    I’ll try. My computer gave mw a word count of 53, so using the college “articles don’t count” rule, I didn’t include the two a’s and one the in my total. I’d considered removing snowy, country and tonight, but I was trying to make it clear that she was on a dark, cold, isolated road. No one will drive by and no where to seek help. I’ll work on it. Are you insisting on counting the articles?

    ANN ATANASIO

    Deirdre disappeared down Ali’s road after asking a favor. Lifelong friends now doctor-patient; Ali couldn’t cure Deidre nor legally end her suffering.

    The punctured tire’d flatten; Deidre too weak to walk.

    “A sad tale’s best for winter,” Ali thought gripping Deidre’s phone; praying she’d succumb to exhaust fumes before freezing.

    MY COMPUTER GIVES ME A WORD COUNT OF 50 ON THIS VERSION.

    ANN ATANASIO

    One last word of explanation before midnight: according to the NY Times Manual of Style and Usage, the hyphenated word “doctor-patient” is one word. It doesn’t refer to two people, but to a single relationship. That should qualify my piece for the 50 word limit.

    Lori Thatcher

    Fading
    Keeping his face soft, he adjusted her pillow, settled close on the bed, and took his wife’s hand. “Sad or merry?”
    “Sad, she said. “A sad tale’s best for winter.” He gazed out the window, gathering the story. Autumn leaves still clung to the trees, but winter was coming, indeed.

    Brigitte

    “A sad tale’s best for winter.” “I don’t understand, mommy! Why is sad BEST ?” My youngest daughter cried. “I like happy! Sad is NOT happy! Bamn! The door slammed. My husband woke up. “What the heck is wrong? ” he screams. “Oh, there’s nothing wrong. Everything’s fine. Things are just fine.”

    Brigitte

    “A sad winter’s tale is best.” There was banging on my front door.”Mam,open up! It’s the police. Your neighbor’s dog keeps barking. Know what happened?” “Yes, I broke into their house because I ran out of sugar. I couldn’t make Christmas cookies. I wouldn’t dare disappoint my family.”

    Barbara L Carter

    This sad tale’s best for winter – The January wind blustered. Decayed musk and pong filled your nostrils before seeing the giant, iridescent colored eyes encircling you. The eyes glowed, motionless, and soundless. No torsos, limbs, or faces – just terrifying, concave, rainbow-like eyes surrounded and glowered at you.

    Barbara L Carter

    After landing on her butt and sliding down the icy driveway, she glided into the street. Leaning on one side, she tried to lift but dropped back on the black ice; glanced at her full-figure body. A sad tale’s best for winter. I hope my neighbors aren’t spying.

    KevinW

    San Francisco, 1966:
    “What y’all do for fun ’round here?”
    “We swallow synthetic fungi and see God, while listening to the Dead!”
    “Wellll, back in Indiana this time of year we hunker down and wait for the snow to melt.”
    The barefoot blond blinked. “A sad tale’s best for winter”.

    Calder Lowe

    Seeking Arctic Redemption

    Whatever prompted him to remember that line “a sad tale’s best for winter” while
    offing himself at an arctic meteorological base? Maybe he’d always been the batshit crazy guy?

    The white pills washed down with tequila left a bitter aftertaste on his tongue. Anticipated images flashing before his eyes? Nada.

    Aaron Reis

    It has not stopped raining.

    “I’ll move back to Hawaii, live on the beach for a while,
    lots of people do it. It’s the place to do it. I’ll find myself,
    there.”

    As the great Gil Scott Heron penned:
    It’s winter in America.

    The name of this tale, is heuristic.

    Torria Stevens

    Interesting Joanne, very interesting indeed.




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